TCC(NZ) On Certain Aspects Of Genetic Modification Of Substances In New Zealand
Since almost a decade, largely unknown to many of us, we have been eating foods that have been fully or partly created in laboratories and were called Genetically Modified (GM) food. This was indeed a new phenomenon where no long-term studies were conducted to assess the effects of such food items, nor anyone cared to investigate into its plus or minus points prior to release before the masses. To put it bluntly, the Homo sapiens – serving as laboratory rats had become a part of the largest unrestrained experiment ever undertaken under the sun!
However, the awakening has come at last and there is scientific consensus remarking that food derived from GM crops poses very little or no risk to human health as compared to conventional food, save and except the condition that each GM food must be tested on a case-by-case basis prior to release before the public. But the members of general public hold different views, while the legal and regulatory status of such food items vary from country to country, with some countries banning them, others permitting with varied degrees of regulations.
New Zealand on the top of the rung
According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), New Zealand upholds one of the most comprehensive and rigorous approval regimes for genetically modified organisms in the world. Nevertheless, genetic modification techniques have been approved for use in specific field research in contained outdoor environments, such as in relation to pest control, pharmaceutical research, and the enhancement of the production capacity of crops and animals.
But there have not yet been any application for the release of resulting products. Only an imported, genetically engineered equine influenza vaccination is currently the lone item containing live modified organisms that has been approved for use in the country. Also, there are no genetically modified commercial crops being grown in New Zealand currently and no fresh produce or meat sold that is genetically modified. Processed food containing imported, genetically modified ingredients are assessed for safety and are required to comply with labeling requirements.
HSNO Act is the guiding factor in NZ
The importation, development, field testing, and release of “new organisms,” including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are regulated by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act). Various aspects of the HSNO Act relating to GMOs were incorporated through amending legislation that was passed in 2003, including provisions relating to the conditional release of new organisms, a civil liability and pecuniary penalties regime, as well as a requirement to establish an advisory committee to inform decision makers about matters of concern to the Māori people. The amendments resulted from the government’s response to the report of a Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which was established in 2000 and completed its report in July 2001. The major conclusion of the Royal Commission was that New Zealand should proceed cautiously with genetic modification, but not completely “close the door” to it.
However, there is a growing recognition among industry and science organizations, policy makers, farmers and others that there could be economic benefits from using biotechnology. There is also an increasing recognition that it could be used to develop products with agronomic benefits suitable to New Zealand with positive impacts for food security and environmental problem mitigation.
The President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand recently made a speech, at a primary sector conference, calling for a more enlightened debate on the subject. At the same time some primary sector organizations and farmers remain cautious about the use of biotechnology out of concern that it will tarnish New Zealand’s “clean and green” image and negatively impact on the ability to market products overseas.
Health related problems associated with GMOs specify damage to vital organs of the body, such as the liver and the kidneys. Allergic reactions have also been reported in many cases throughout the world. Particular reference may be drawn in the case of Indian field workers who handled cotton that was modified with BT insect repellant gene. Who knows what may happen when more and more GMOs will cover the crop scenario in not too distant future.